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Mayor Walsh’s hires haven’t reflected city’s diversity

Activists not ready to pass judgment

Mayor Martin Walsh strongly rejected any suggestion that he had fallen short on his commitment to diversity.

Dina Rudick/Globe staff/file

Mayor Martin J. Walsh strongly rejected any suggestion that he had fallen short on his commitment to diversity.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh has repeatedly vowed to build an administration that reflects the diversity of Boston, a city in which people of color and women make up more than half the population.

But a Boston Globe analysis of city payroll records found that the Walsh administration’s first wave of new hires, which includes both Cabinet chiefs and junior aides, was overwhelmingly white and predominantly male. More than half of the 39 nonunion employees brought into the administration during the mayor’s first month in office live in Walsh’s political power base in Dorchester and South Boston. Almost all came from the ranks of Walsh’s campaign.

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In an interview this week, Walsh strongly rejected any suggestion that he had fallen short on his commitment to diversity. He pointed to three people of color he tapped for prominent positions in his Cabinet; the other five permanent Cabinet appointments have been white. Walsh noted that after taking office, he immediately overhauled the top echelons of the Police Department, which now has its most diverse command staff in history.

“We’re completely inclusive; we’re completely changing the mind-set” at City Hall, Walsh said, adding that it was premature to judge his efforts. “The previous administration had 20 years of accomplishments. You don’t judge the success of a mayor in his first seven weeks.”

Mayor Martin Walsh’s first wave of hires at City Hall include Joyce Linehan (second from left), Joseph Rull (seated next to Linehan), and Daniel Arrigg Koh (profile, right).

Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff

Mayor Martin Walsh’s first wave of hires at City Hall include Joyce Linehan (second from left), Joseph Rull (seated next to Linehan), and Daniel Arrigg Koh (profile, right).

Data obtained through a public records request show that in the first month after Walsh’s inauguration, 39 people were hired for nonunion positions controlled by the mayor. The records cover hiring from Jan. 6 through Feb. 7 and do not include the most recent hires, including former mayoral candidate John F. Barros. The administration said Thursday that data on hiring from the past two weeks was not immediately available.

The new administration did not add to the payroll, Walsh said, but filled positions left vacant by departing members of the administration of Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

The majority of the new hires in the first month, 26, were in the mayor’s office, according to records analyzed by the Globe. Almost three-quarters of that group, which includes top officials and low-level staff members, are white. All 26 of those new employees had some connection to Walsh’s campaign either as paid staff, key advisers, volunteers, or donors.

“There’s a lot of chatter about whether he’s making good on his promises,” said Cheryl Clyburn Crawford, executive director of MassVOTE, which is part of a coalition of civil rights and community organizations monitoring Walsh’s promise to build a more inclusive administration. “I think he’s falling short, personally.”

Others urge patience.

“He’s at the top of the first inning, not the bottom of the ninth,” said Colette Phillips, a public relations executive who has championed diversity in the workplace. “I’m willing to trust what he said at the beginning that he’s going to have an administration that reflects the city.”

Boston has a population of roughly 640,000, and 53 percent are black, Hispanic, or Asian, according to the US Census Bureau. Last year was the first open mayor’s race in two decades, and diversity in government took center stage in a city that has had only white men as mayors.

Walsh won the backing of prominent black and Latino leaders, which helped catapult him into office.

“The community delivered for him,” said Barbara Lewis, director of The Trotter Institute, a think tank at the University of Massachusetts Boston focused on African-American culture. “I think he has to deliver for the community.”

Walsh pledged diversity during the campaign and reiterated it as recently as Monday, when he addressed a Black History Month event and pledged to boost opportunities for minority-owned businesses and appoint people of color to key positions.

“We have a long way to go,” Walsh told a crowd of about 200 people. “But if we don’t start in City Hall by setting the bar high, then how can I as mayor or we as a government expect other people to do the same?”

The city has a workforce of roughly 19,000, but a new mayor’s ability to fill jobs isn’t as expansive as some outsiders might believe. More than 90 percent of city workers belong to unions, which protect employees’ jobs during a change in administrations. Roughly 1,000 more employees work part time as poll workers and library aides.

That leaves about 500 nonunion positions over which the mayor can exert the most influence. Under the Menino administration, the list included some 45 Cabinet chiefs and department heads and other jobs scattered through the city.

Michael A. Curry, president of the NAACP’s Boston chapter, said it was premature to judge Walsh’s effort to built a diverse team at City Hall.

Yoon S. Byun/Globe staff/file 2013

Michael A. Curry, president of the NAACP’s Boston chapter, said it was premature to judge Walsh’s effort to built a diverse team at City Hall.

The mayor’s office and the Office of Neighborhood Services have traditionally been landing spots for campaign workers and top advisers. In his first month, Walsh’s hiring focused almost entirely on those two offices.

Neighborhood Services hired seven employees, records show. Five are white; five are men.

In the interview this week, Walsh expressed frustration that he has not been able to make more hires.

He talked about fiscal constraints in a tight budget year and said he did not want to add employees he might have to lay off later. Walsh said he did not “run for mayor to bloat the payroll” and would not add employees to meet a diversity goal.

“I have a lot of people that helped on the campaign that would love to work in city government, but the positions we’re filling are positions that in most cases are very unique,” Walsh said. “There’s a quality or understanding and knowledge that you have to have. You can’t just stick anyone into a Neighborhood Service position. You can’t put anyone in to be chief of staff or a Cabinet-level chief.”

In addition to people who worked on Walsh’s campaign, the first 39 hires included six people who worked in the State House, where Walsh served in the Legislature.

Three of the new employees in the mayor’s office were on the City Council staff of Felix G. Arroyo, whom Walsh appointed chief of human services. They will be moving out of the mayor’s office to join Arroyo in human services, said a Walsh spokeswoman.

Two other new city employees were on the campaign payroll of Barros, the former mayoral candidate whom Walsh named chief of economic development last week.

It is not surprising that Walsh would turn to familiar faces as he makes his first hires, said Paul Watanabe, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston who served on Walsh’s transition team. “It’s a pretty small sample,” he said of the 39 hires.

“Now, when we talk about 400 employees having the kinds of demographics you’re talking about, I think it would be very reasonable to raise the issue that it reflects the kind of diversity talked about on the campaign,” he added.

Michael A. Curry, president of the NAACP’s Boston chapter, said it was premature to judge Walsh’s effort to built a diverse team at City Hall.

“I want to give him a little more time to do the recruitment,” Curry said. “I think what’s going to be critical for the administration to address the natural tendency to hire from your immediate network of primarily white men.”

One new hire was Lauren Jones, a 30-year-old African-American who lives in South Boston and is a policy adviser in the mayor’s office focusing on education, economic development, and summer jobs. Jones worked in the office of Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray.

Jones volunteered for Walsh’s campaign, she said, working on a policy paper on veterans. After the election, she left a position at the state Office of Labor and Workforce Development for a paid job on Walsh’s transition and followed the new mayor into City Hall.

“It’s an exciting time in Boston to be part of the team,” Jones said. “There’s a lot of momentum . . . people are very excited about this time in history.”

Andrew Ryan can be reached at acryan@globe.com.
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